My son wakes up from his nap, crying.
I go into his room, and discover it's real crying, not the I-heard-kids-outside-playing-and-now-I-want-to-get-up-and-play-too crying, but real tears, and real anxiety.
"Joe* hit you," he says and reaches out for a hug.
He doesn't quite understand the concept of "I" yet. So, no, Joe hasn't, in fact, hit me. Joe is a 2-year-old boy in our playgroup that has, though, been hitting and pushing my son on a rather consistent basis.
My first test of confronting someone else's parenting - and I have failed miserably.
Now, Joe is two. I know this. And I also know that 2-year-old's experiment with expressing their emotions and pushing buttons and all of that. In fact, this very afternoon I have experienced it with my own son when, out to lunch at a regular hangout of ours, he knocked over their ALPHABETIZED box of frequent-buyer cards on the counter THEN swiped his entire lunch onto the floor.
The hitting isn't what necessarily bothers me. (Well, it does. But I get it.) What really gets me though is that Joe's mom, at the end of the playgroup, when everyone is leaving, smothers her son with compliments. "Joe, you did a really good job sharing today." Or "Joe, you were so good today."
Is she kidding me?
(In all fairness, she does tell him "No" when he's in the middle of handing my son a smackdown. However, his "scolding" is accompanied by snuggles and hugs and a drink of milk.)
The first time it happened, the mother approached me outside of playgroup and apologized for her son's actions. She told me that she didn't really believe in punishing her son though, because she didn't want him to associate socializing with a negative experience. I didn't really know how to react to that. So, all I said was, "Okay."
When it happened this last time, what I should have done was say something, albeit tactfully, right then and there. "You know, Kate*, Joe is being a bit aggressive. Maybe he needs to sit out for a bit."
See how easy that would have been?
But in the playgroup dynamic, it's really not. Parents, especially mothers, are not down with criticizing OPP - Other People's Parenting. A form of pint-sized political correctness, if you will. And I, apparently, am the biggest wimp of all.
My husband says he doesn't understand women. If it were him, "You bet your [you-know-what] I would have said something," he says.
And when I sit and think about it, I get just a little bit angrier each time. I should have said something, but instead, I have considered dropping out of the whole darn thing and avoiding any hint of confrontation or controversy. It's summer anyway, and there's the beach, and the boardwalk, and parks and playgrounds to tackle.
But, should I drop out?
Being a mostly stay-at-home mom, I, as well as my son, crave the social interaction playgroup provides. And, for the most part, the kids get along just fine. And, for the most part, so do the moms.
In the end, I guess I know what I have to do. I just wonder if I am man enough to do it.
*Names have been changed to protect the offender and his family.